Open main menu

Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/34

This page needs to be proofread.


24 Presidential Address.

organised groups. He assumes that two or more neigh- bouring groups (which he calls phratries) hit on the idea that wives might be got as well by exchange as by robbery, and with less trouble. They then make a treaty of peace on the basis of exchange. Examining the tribal systems of Australia, he finds everywhere traces of two great phratries, Eagle Hawk and Crow, and these he seems to regard as the original parties to the compact which lies at the basis of the Australian social system. Thus there would be originally two classes only, and totem class (if it then existed) would be the same thing as phratry or marriage class; but as other less important groups came to join the dual alliance, a number of new and different totems came to exist in each phratry. Then on the one hand, the old phratry had within it a totem-class of the same name ; or perhaps a synonymous name, the old name surviving as the title of the whole group, or gradually being forgotten altogether: on the other hand, wherever in the natural course of things the same totem name came to be found in both phratries, the balance was redressed by migration from one phratry to the other. Otherwise there would be some persons debarred altogether from marriage ; because by custom they could neither marry into their own totem (which was by hypothesis identical in name with the whole opposite phratry) or into any part of the phratry with which they lived. Here two ideas came into conflict, local attach- ment and totemic belief: but the weaker of the two, local attachment, gave way before the paramount necessity of marrying someone. In the end, phratry names often died out, leaving matrimonial classes which have no name.

I hope that I have given a fair summary of Mr. Lang's constructive hypothesis : if not, I am ready to correct it, for I am far from wishing to do injustice to it. The hypothesis is ingenious in a high degree ; and it is advocated with the persuasive eloquence which we all